Making human rights campaigning more accessible

by Abbie Kirkby

Published: 09 Oct 2019

Abbie Kirkby is the Advice and Policy Manager at Friends, Families and Travellers – a national charity working with Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities, which has been supporting families and campaigning for better rights for 25 years.

Gypsies, Travellers and Roma continue to be amongst the most excluded and discriminated against groups in UK society today, indeed we believe that the situation has worsened rather than improved in recent years.

This is supported by research carried out by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which found Gypsies and Travellers to be one of the most disadvantaged groups in Britain.

Also by the recent report published by the Women and Equalities Committee, for their inquiry into the inequalities experienced by Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities.

Gypsies and Travellers experience some of the worst life outcomes of any ethnic group in the UK, even when socio-economic status is taken into account.

For example, life expectancy is between 10 to 25 years lower than the wider population, educational experience and outcomes are comparatively lower, there are high levels of homelessness and many Gypsies, Roma and Travellers experience prejudice and discrimination on a daily basis.

Shockingly, some Gypsies and Travellers do not enjoy many of the human rights most of us take for granted, such as access to water, sanitation and healthcare, a fact we should be ashamed of in 21st Century Britain.

International treaties: a powerful tool

We believe these burning injustices and inequalities need to be addressed from a human rights perspective and have realised what a powerful and crucial tool international treaties are for Gypsies, Roma and Travellers.

Our work in this area has involved providing evidence to international human rights committees, detailing the situation for Gypsies and Travellers and how governments are failing to fulfil their equality duties.

We have engaged with a number of human rights mechanisms and treaties, which have included:

  • the Universal Periodic Review
  • the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination
  • the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance
  • the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women
  • the United Nations Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance

However, engaging with these mechanisms and processes can be quite inaccessible.

I, for one, have spent hours trawling through the internet trying to navigate the committee’s reporting cycles, reports and recommendations!

Making campaigning accessible

This is why I’m thrilled that the Equality and Human Rights Commission has developed this new human rights tracker – which will collate information on specific human rights and the conventions which protect them in format that’s much more accessible.

The effectiveness of the international human rights framework depends significantly on the involvement of civil society organisations in holding government to account on their obligations.

It is absolutely crucial that the extreme inequalities experienced by Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities play a part in this and a human rights tracker to increase an understanding of human rights, and the treaties that protect them, will be of great help.

I will certainly be using the tracker in our campaigning and advocacy work!

See for yourself

The human rights tracker is an online tool to help you track how well the UK is putting its human rights duties into practice. Find out how we monitor human rights, which international standards the UK has to meet, and search the UN’s most recent recommendations.

Try the human rights tracker